Flashback to the ’50s: FBA hosts old Hollywood fashion show


Thomas J. Yang

Julia Podvin, a sophomore studying finance and accounting, modeled for the Pitt Fashion Business Association Annual Fashion Show Wednesday night in the William Pitt Union. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Visual Editor)

Most college students don’t raid their grandmother’s closet for fashion inspiration, but when Julia Huber’s models strutted down the runway in the William Pitt Union Wednesday night, her grandmother’s mink coat was on full display.

Pitt’s Fashion Business Association hosted its Annual Fashion Show event — this year with an “old Hollywood” theme — at 7:30 p.m. in the William Pitt Union Wednesday. The show celebrated the 10th anniversary of the organization and raised money for the Pittsburgh chapter of Dress for Success — a group that empowers women to become independent by providing a network of support and professional clothing for job interviews and professional meetings.

Dress for Success Pittsburgh aims to break the cycle of poverty by providing long-lasting solutions to women. The group’s motto is “clothing, connections, confidence!”

According to Huber, the FBA president and senior health and formation management major, the show featured four different themes — icons, old Hollywood glam, old looks with a modern twist and film noir.

“I was able to ask my grandma, ‘Hey, do you have your old prom dress?’” Huber said.

While she was unable to get her grandmother’s prom dress, Huber was able to incorporate her grandmother’s mink coat in the old Hollywood glam line.

A designated apparel committee rummaged through older relatives’ closets, in addition to local secondhand stores and boutiques — such as Buffalo Exchange, Goodwill and Whimsy on Fifth — to find authentic clothing items from the 1950s. Boutiques donated some of these items for the raffle too, such as a large statement necklace with silver rhinestones and green accent stones from Whimsy on Fifth.

“It was kind of a challenge because the clothing of the 1950s had a really different fit than clothing does now,” Huber said. “The top parts are very busty and the bottom parts are very curvy, so we had to make some adjustments.”

Huber said the apparel committee kept the prevailing mid-century look in mind when choosing accessories as well, picking simple, classic embellishments like pearls and rhinestones and opting for a plain black or nude stiletto shoe.

As logistics chair, sophomore communication major Katelyn Kearns worked to create an atmosphere at the show that resembled the old Hollywood theme, from the student “paparazzi” armed with polaroid cameras to a red carpet stretching into the hall.

Dress for Success representative Shawnte Knox gave a speech at the beginning of the show about the organization’s mission statement. She described different clothes they provide women when they come to their boutique, such as a full business outfit, a pair of shoes and personal care items before the all-female a cappella group “Sounds Like Treble” briefly took the stage for a performance.

First was the icon line, featuring clothing of the same style as classic celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Notable styles in this line included a similar look to Monroe’s iconic deep V-neck dress and a pink-and-purple Jackie Kennedy-style dress suit.

The second line was film noir — encapsulating the beauty and fashion of early black-and-white films. Stand-out looks in the line included two tasseled black dresses and a sleek black velvet dress. Sparkles also made appearances in this line, with many of the black dresses incorporating glittery fabric and sequins.

The third line — old looks with a modern twist — featured many of the styles seen in the two prior lines, but with modern accessories and designs added in. Two of the most memorable outfits were an old-fashioned sailor style romper and a long-sleeved turtleneck paired with a floral midi skirt.

The final line reflected the theme of the night — old Hollywood glam — and was inspired by actress’ outfits on the red carpet in the 1950s. It included significant glitz, such as a red dress with a high thigh slit, a blue silky dress with a mink fur coat and a beige, rhinestone-covered gown. As electronic music played, the models walked down the T-shaped catwalk, in sync with both the music and each other.

The turnout for the fashion show was what Huber expected — about 80 audience members. Pitt FBA raised $503 from ticket sales and the raffle, all of which is going to Dress for Success. Along with this money, FBA donates clothing from the show to Dress for Success.

In celebration of the organization’s 10th anniversary, Huber explained how FBA created a place for Pitt students who were considering a career in fashion merchandising. This year’s fashion show is the seventh annual event of its kind, but the decade mark gave it an extra element of excitement for the members of FBA.

“As soon as I was elected president, I was excited because this is our 10-year anniversary, so I immediately knew we had to make this the best show ever,” Huber said.

Sage Minton, the club secretary and a marketing, supply chain management and business information systems major, had an essential role in bringing the show together. Minton came up with the show’s theme and helped the fashion show board set up the venue.

While the secretary of FBA doesn’t usually have such a major role in the fashion show, Minton was asked to help out this year’s director of logistics, Kearns, since she filled that position last year. Although Sage said she had to step in to alleviate some of the pressure the show creates, she said the experience still produces positive results for all those involved.

“The pressure and intensity of throwing everything together last minute really helps bring all the members of FBA together,” Minton said.